Crowded cloud: Microsoft

20. July 2017

Date: 20-07-2017
Source: The Economist

Today the world’s largest software company reports earnings for the second quarter. Its share price is at an all-time high, elevated by expectations that the chief executive, Satya Nadella, will continue to transform the company and develop new business lines.

Mr Nadella, who is enthusiastic about artificial intelligence (AI), wants Microsoft to become an “AI-first” firm. He has pumped more time and money into Azure, its cloud-computing business, hopeful that it will account for much of the firm’s future growth.

But the company faces stiff competition from deep-pocketed rivals, such as Amazon and Google. Jefferies, an investment bank, reckons Azure will chalk up around $5bn in sales in 2017, or 21% of the market—an impressive sum but far less than Amazon Web Services, with 71%. Investors will be looking for clues as to how much new cloud business Microsoft has won. When expectations are great, even good results can disappoint.


What will business technology look like tomorrow?

13. July 2017

Date: 13-07-2017
Source: The Economist
Subject: A new way to work

Two experts from MIT analyse the business implications of our digital future

Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing our Digital Future. By Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson. W.W. Norton; 402 pages; $28.95 and £22.99.

IN 2014 Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published “The Second Machine Age”. The book was a balanced portrait of how new digital technologies were poised to improve society, even as they increased unemployment and depressed wages. In their latest work, “Machine, Platform, Crowd”, the authors seek to explain the business implications behind these developments.

Mr McAfee and Mr Brynjolfsson believe that the latest phase of computers and the internet have created three shifts in how work happens. The first is artificial intelligence (AI): a move from man to machine. In the past people worked with computers and, at the same time, were augmented by them: what the authors call the “standard partnership”. But that model is breaking down as computers improve and take more control.

You need only look at self-driving cars, online language translation and Amazon’s prototype cashierless shops to see that something big is happening. Digital technologies used to be applied to information—first numbers and text, and, later, music and video. Now, the digital technologies are invading the physical world.

For instance, designing a “heat exchanger”, a part in appliances like refrigerators, means balancing many different specifications and constraints. Humans settle for one that works well enough because to find the optimal one is too hard. But new “generative design” means AI-infused software can run zillions of tiny permutations to find the best possible design—one that a human might not come up with. And with 3D printing, those designs might be shared, modified and manufactured anywhere. Read the rest of this entry »


A CEO’s Guide to Leading Digital Transformation

9. June 2017

This article is part of an ongoing series exploring changes in the workplace and in the nature of work. The first piece explored 12 megatrends, such as automation, big data, demographics, and diversity, that are revolutionizing the way work gets done. Subsequent publications will explore digital governance, talent, and culture.

The success of a transformation depends on an organization’s leaders, especially the CEO. In digital transformations, the CEO is even more critical because of the magnitude of change, the degree of disruption, and the power of inertia.

Digital transformation requires new ways of working, not just new technology. The scarcest resource at many companies is not necessarily technological know-how but leadership. Leaders need the ability to sift through an avalanche of digital initiatives, manage accelerating innovation cycles, and reshape the organization around new approaches such as agile.

Here are five golden rules of digital transformation for CEOs to follow. Read the rest of this entry »


Jeff Bezos: the ‘obsessive’ Amazon founder and world’s next richest man

3. June 2017

Date: 03-06-2017
Source: The Guardian

Bezos, whose wealth has risen by $20bn in five months, could take Bill Gates’s crown within days if Amazon shares keep soaring

 Jeff Bezos founded Amazon in 1994, the early days of the internet, selling books from his garage in Seattle.

Just a few dollars more on the Amazon share price and the world will have a new richest man. Jeff Bezos, the company’s founder, is on the brink of overtaking Bill Gates to become the wealthiest person on the planet.

Bezos, 53, has been having a very good year. His net worth has risen by almost $20bn (£16bn) in the past five months to $85.2bn, putting him just behind Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, who is valued at $89.3bn, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Bezos’ fortune has soared thanks to a sharp rise in Amazon’s share price, which has gone up by one-third so far in 2017, valuing the company at $475bn and Bezos’s stake of roughly 17% at more than $80bn. If Amazon shares continue to rise at the same pace, Bezos will become the richest person in the world within days. Read the rest of this entry »


Companies Look to Make a Quantum Leap With New Technology

7. May 2017

Date: 07-05-2017
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Volkswagen is among a growing number of firms experimenting with quantum computing to push their businesses forward

Companies have started to tap into quantum computing, like this D-Wave 2000Q System, in an effort to gain a competitive edge.

Quantum mechanics has fascinated, confounded and even alarmed scientists for nearly a century with the notion that particles can exist in two states at once and communicate with each other across vast distances. The underlying science that Albert Einstein famously called “spooky” could soon become one of modern computing’s core tenets.

Computers that utilize quantum mechanics are moving beyond pure scientific research and inching toward the commercial sector, with companies such as Volkswagen AG beginning to harness their unprecedented power to solve complex problems in nanoseconds.

“This technology is not futuristic,” said Martin Hofmann, Volkswagen chief information officer, who oversees information technology for the group’s 12 brands including Audi , Porsche and Bentley. “It’s a question of years until it’s commercialized, and investing right now in the technology is a big competitive advantage.”

Companies including D-Wave Systems Inc. and International Business Machines Corp. have been pioneering quantum computing, and experts say that within five years the technology could be powerful enough to solve new classes of problems that are currently beyond the grasp of even supercomputers. Read the rest of this entry »


Harvard Business School risks going from great to good

7. May 2017

Date: 04-05-2017
Source: The Economist: Schumpeter

A confidential memorandum of warning to its senior faculty

YOU will all be aware that a book has just been published about our institution, Harvard Business School (HBS). Entitled “The Golden Passport”, by Duff McDonald, it makes a number of unflattering claims about the school’s ethics and its purpose. While often unbalanced, it is likely to galvanise hostility to HBS both inside Harvard University, of which we are a part, and among the public. This memorandum, circulated only to the most senior faculty members, assesses HBS’s strategic position.

Our school has been among the country’s most influential institutions since its foundation in 1908. Our forebears helped build America’s economy in the early 20th century and helped win the second world war. HBS educates less than 1% of American MBA students but case studies written by our faculty are used at business schools around the world. Our alumni fill the corridors of elite firms such as McKinsey. Many bosses of big American companies studied here. Even in Silicon Valley, where we are relatively weak, about a tenth of “unicorns”—private startups worth over $1bn—have one of our tribe as a founder. Read the rest of this entry »


The new status symbol: it’s not what you spend – it’s how hard you work

24. April 2017

Date: 24-04-2017
Source: The Guardian

The rich used to show how much they could spend on things they didn’t need. Today, a public display of productivity is the new symbol of class power

Apple CEO Tim Cook says he starts each day at 3.45am, while Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer had talked about her 130-hour workweek.

Almost 120 years ago, during the first Gilded Age, sociologist Thorstein Veblen coined the term “conspicuous consumption”. He used it to refer to rich people flaunting their wealth through wasteful spending. Why buy a thousand-dollar suit when a hundred-dollar one serves the same function? The answer, Veblen said, was power. The rich asserted their dominance by showing how much money they could burn on things they didn’t need.

While radical at the time, Veblen’s observation seems obvious now. In the intervening decades, conspicuous consumption has become deeply embedded in the texture of American capitalism. Our new Gilded Age is even more Veblenian than the last. Today’s captains of industry publicize their social position with private islands and superyachts while the president of the United States covers nearly everything he owns in gold. Read the rest of this entry »